Artist Statement? What’s that and why do I need it?

Most artists that I deal with do not like writing an artist statement and many don’t have one at all. Since most artistic people are more visual than language oriented, writing an artist statement becomes a difficult task. So why should you bother? People communicate with language and when they are interested in your art and want to know more, the artist statement can be the start to that conversation. Whether it is something you give to potential buyers, give to galleries or is required for entering shows, the artist statement is essential for communicating what you do in your art and why you do it.

 

A good artist statement reveals more about you the artist, your inspiration and motivations, how you work, the materials you use and what your art means to you. To communicate this information, you need to keep the statement short and succinct in language that anyone can understand. Avoid using vague language that could be used by anyone such as “I am inspired by nature”. What specifically inspires you about nature? Is it the vast desert landscapes and the colors of the sunset? Or are you inspired by the textures of lichen on a rock? Use your thesaurus to find adjectives that specifically communicate the idea you are expressing. Find words that match the type of art that you create. Is your work comical or funky?  Think about the language that would fit and express that side of your art.

Start listening to what others have to say about your art. What words do they use to describe your work? Write the words down. Think about why you do what you do. What makes you the happiest about your work? Is there a specific method that you like the best? Why? Is there something that you do that never fails to inspire? Write it all down quickly like taking notes. Don’t try to edit the words when you first start. Just write it all down.

Once you’ve started your list of words and phrases, look all these words up in the dictionary and thesaurus and find more words to add to your list. Spend time on this search and keep thinking about your art. Ask yourself what your art means to you. Keep your list handy so when an idea pops into your head, you can write it down. Many times your subconscious can work on these questions while you are busy doing something else and  great ideas will arrive at the most unexpected times.

So do you have an artist’s statement? If you do, are you happy with it? Did you write it ten years ago? Take the next two weeks to get a list of words that describe your art and why you do what you do. I’ll discuss writing the full statement in my next column. Don’t miss this opportunity to better communicate with the world what makes your art unique.

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14 Responses to Artist Statement? What’s that and why do I need it?

  1. I wrote an artist’s statement about 5 years ago. Over time I found that I must revise some aspects of it because my art is always evolving. However, the main structure is still intact. If you can construct a foundation, you can always tweak it. Just like you said. Keep it fresh.

  2. this is great advice on how to find the right words and descriptions. Having a friend read it really helped me. It is easier to help with someone else’s than do your own.

  3. Here’s a question do you do it in first person or third person? Or does it not matter.

    • ruthlane says:

      In the first person is better. It should be like you’re talking to a customer and telling them about your work. I’ll talk more about this next column.

  4. Lyn says:

    Timely reminder, thanks Ruth, our is a bit out of date!

    • ruthlane says:

      I’d love to feature your out of date one and then the revised updated one if you’re interested. I think people might find a real life example helpful.

  5. I seen too many artist statements with overly long sentences, pie in the sky wording which seldom match the aspiration of the art shown. Needless to say I have mixed feelings on this aspect of presenting my art.

    • ruthlane says:

      That’s part of the reason that I’m writing about artist statements. They shouldn’t be as you’ve described them. They should be down to earth, in the artist’s own words describing what they do and why. If you want to enter shows, exhibits or even get your work into most galleries, you need an artist statement. Hopefully, you can write a statement that will enhance your art as opposed to taking away from it.

  6. zedster66 says:

    I don’t have one, I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone else either. What do you do with them?

    • ruthlane says:

      Zed – since you don’t well your work, there is really no reason that you would have an artist statement. But if you plan on entering shows or exhibits, you generally need an artist statement to go with your entry.

  7. jane dolan says:

    Yes in the past when I sold some of my felt in our local gallery ( now shut due to earthquake damage darn it ) they asked me to write “a bit about myself and my work” for them to put up beside my felt, I did not keep a copy, so this will be a great help as I would like to try and get my wares in some other gallery’s and shops, and if they ask for “an Artists Statement” I can have one ready to go rather than a mad panic.
    I am giving on line sales ago, and had to write a “profile page” which I did in a bit of a rush so I think I could tweak that too!
    All sounds good practical advice so far thanks Ruth.

    • ruthlane says:

      It’s always easier to have something ready in advance and usually taking a bit more time will give you a more coherent statement than doing one in a “mad panic”. I’d love to see what you come up with if you’d like to share.

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